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Using Behavioral Insights to Increase Parental Engagement: The Parents and Children Together Intervention


  • Susan E. Mayer
  • Ariel Kalil
  • Philip Oreopoulos
  • Sebastian Gallegos


Parental engagement plays a key role in children’s future success. We implemented a behaviorally informed field experiment designed to increase the time parents spend using a digital library on an electronic tablet to read to their children. Behavioral tools—reminders, goal setting, and social rewards—more than doubled the amount of time parents spent reading using the electronic application (one standard deviation effect size) after the six-week intervention. The largest gains were for the most present-oriented parents. Our findings suggest substantial promise for the application of behavioral tools to parenting activities that promote investment in children’s human capital.

Suggested Citation

  • Susan E. Mayer & Ariel Kalil & Philip Oreopoulos & Sebastian Gallegos, 2019. "Using Behavioral Insights to Increase Parental Engagement: The Parents and Children Together Intervention," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 54(4), pages 900-925.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:54:y:2019:i:4:p:900-925
    Note: DOI: 10.3368/jhr.54.4.0617.8835R

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    Cited by:

    1. Jonas Jessen & Christa Katharina Spieß & Sevrin Waights, 2022. "Centre‐Based Care and Parenting Activities," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 84(6), pages 1356-1379, December.
    2. Hennig, Jan-Luca, 2021. "Labor Market Polarization and Intergenerational Mobility: Theory and Evidence," VfS Annual Conference 2021 (Virtual Conference): Climate Economics 242353, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    3. Hermes, Henning & Lergetporer, Philipp & Peter, Frauke & Wiederhold, Simon, 2021. "Behavioral Barriers and the Socioeconomic Gap in Child Care Enrollment," Discussion Paper Series in Economics 16/2021, Norwegian School of Economics, Department of Economics.
    4. Kalena E. Cortes & Hans D.U. Fricke & Susanna Loeb & David S. Song & Benjamin N. York, 2019. "When Behavioral Barriers are Too High or Low – How Timing Matters for Parenting Interventions," NBER Working Papers 25964, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Maldonado, Joana Elisa & De Witte, Kristof, 2021. "The impact of information provision to parents: Experimental evidence on student outcomes," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Finance, Elsevier, vol. 31(C).
    6. Kertesi, Gábor & Kézdi, Gábor & Hajdu, Tamás, 2022. "Idő és pénz a gyermeknevelésben Magyarországon, 1993-2010 [Time and money in raising children in Hungary, 1993-2010]," Közgazdasági Szemle (Economic Review - monthly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Közgazdasági Szemle Alapítvány (Economic Review Foundation), vol. 0(11), pages 1255-1297.
    7. Hélène Le Forner, 2021. "Formation of Children’s Cognitive and Socio-Emotional Skills: Is All Parental Time Equal?," AMSE Working Papers 2117, Aix-Marseille School of Economics, France.
    8. Joana Elisa Maldonado & Kristof De Witte & Koen Declercq, 2022. "The effects of parental involvement in homework: two randomised controlled trials in financial education," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 62(3), pages 1439-1464, March.
    9. Benjamin L. Castleman & Francis X. Murphy & Richard W. Patterson & William L. Skimmyhorn, 2021. "Nudges Don't Work When the Benefits Are Ambiguous: Evidence from a High‐Stakes Education Program," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 40(4), pages 1230-1248, September.
    10. Esposito Acosta,Bruno Nicola & Sautmann,Anja, 2022. "Adaptive Experiments for Policy Choice : Phone Calls for Home Reading in Kenya," Policy Research Working Paper Series 10098, The World Bank.
    11. Meredith Phillips & Sarah J. Reber, 2019. "Does Virtual Advising Increase College Enrollment? Evidence from a Random Assignment College Access Field Experiment," NBER Working Papers 26509, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. John A. List & Ragan Petrie & Anya Samek, 2021. "How Experiments with Children Inform Economics," NBER Working Papers 28825, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Michael Rosholm & Alexander Paul & Dorthe Bleses & Anders Højen & Philip S. Dale & Peter Jensen & Laura M. Justice & Michael Svarer & Simon Calmar Andersen, 2021. "Are Impacts Of Early Interventions In The Scandinavian Welfare State Consistent With A Heckman Curve? A Meta‐Analysis," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 35(1), pages 106-140, February.
    14. Ajzenman, Nicolas & López Bóo, Florencia, 2019. "Lessons from Behavioral Economics to Improve Treatment Adherence in Parenting Programs: An Application to SMS," IZA Discussion Papers 12808, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    15. Kuchirko, Yana A. & Coskun, Lerzan Z. & Duch, Helena & Castaner, Maria Marti & Gennetian, Lisa A., 2021. "Light-touch design enhancements can boost parent engagement in math activities," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 128(C).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • D80 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - General


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